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How Sugar Affects Your Teeth and Gums

Nov 6 • 3 minute read

We all know that sugar is bad for us, yet we continue to eat it. Perhaps it’s an addiction, or maybe we lack self-control. While sugar has many adverse effects on our overall health, there are many ways that sugar affects your teeth and gums. Your overall health is connected to your dental health, so it is essential to do everything you can to maintain and restore oral health.

Sugar Changes Mouth Acidity

Did you know that the sugar you eat affects the PH balance of your mouth? Your natural saliva is acidic, and when combined with regular tooth brushing it can maintain a low PH level, which creates an environment for optimal tooth and gum health. When you consume sugar, your saliva interacts and begins to break it down. As the naturally occurring bacteria in your saliva mix with the sugar, they create acid, which drives up the PH. This imbalance can lead to a more acidic environment in your mouth. The acid levels can remain elevated for twenty minutes or more, and during this time that acid begins to eat into the enamel of your teeth, creating dental caries, also known as cavities.

Sugar Also Leads to Bacterial Growth

These toxic and destructive acids created when you consume sugary foods and drinks also form a friendly environment for an unwelcome guest: the hordes of tiny bacteria that lead to gum diseases such as gingivitis and in turn, receding gums and the need complex procedures to repair the damage. Most of us can’t avoid sugar entirely, so it is critical to practice proper dental hygiene and schedule regular dental checkups.

Effects of Solid Sugars, Such as White Processed Sugar

Sugar comes in many forms, and the first one that comes to mind is solid sugar crystals, such as those found in food, gum, and candy. These non-liquid sugars are harmful because they leave a large amount of sticky residue on your teeth that is too strong for your saliva to wash away. The adverse effects of sugars are made worse by the highly concentrated and processed nature the ingredients found in many popular processed foods.

Effects of Liquid Sugars, Such as Corn Syrup

Perhaps the most popular and harmful form of sugar is corn syrup. This form of sugar is prevalent in most sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks. Consuming this form of sugar is like swishing with a mouthwash that coats your mouth in toxins. Sugar gets into every nook and cranny of your mouth, covering every tooth and flowing into gum area tissue. As that sticky film sits there, bacteria begin to breed in the acidic solution, and the acid slowly disintegrates the enamel of your teeth. The same film sits on your gums, where the bacteria can lead to gingivitis and contribute to bad breath.

Effects of Not Brushing After Consuming Sugary Foods and Drinks

These bacteria turn into plaque that irritates your gums and can eventually lead to swelling and even bleeding. As the plaque begins to accumulate, it will lead to the formation of tartar, which is a hardened crusty material. Tartar left on the teeth will start to cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, which in turn allows bacteria to creep deeper below the gum line and into the jawbone.

This process eventually can lead to the development of severe gum disease and an increased number of cavities in the teeth. Severe gum disease can cause painful swelling and bleeding, also known as periodontitis. In severe cases, periodontitis can lead to the breakdown of connective tissue and tooth loss and the need for expensive restorations like bridges, implants, or dentures.

Dental experts recommended that you avoid sugary drinks and foods whenever possible and be sure to always brush your teeth as soon as possible after eating or drinking, especially when those foods or beverages are sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or other forms of sugar. Keep your smile healthy and strong by brushing and flossing every day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year.

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